Volunteer Patients

What are Volunteer Patients?

Volunteer Patients (VPs) participate as themselves. They offer their medical history, whether they are healthy or living with an illness or disability.

VPs participate as a teaching model for medical students. In a typical session, they’ll spend one to two hours in a clinical skills room with four students and a physician tutor. To achieve the learning objectives for the session, each student will perform the same physical exams on, and ask the same questions of, the VP.

All Volunteer Patient sessions are currently in-person. We have strict public health protocols in place to protect our volunteers, staff, faculty, and students. Please email our Patient Program Coordinator to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often would I be scheduled?

During the academic year (September to November and January to April), VPs are continually scheduled for upcoming sessions, usually two to three weeks in advance.

VPs are selected in order to meet session requirements for specific symptomology. They are scheduled based on their availability, medical history, and upcoming applicable sessions.

Some VPs are scheduled for multiple sessions per month; others are only needed once or twice a year.

What types of VPs are there?

There are two different types of VPs: asymptomatic and symptomatic. Both are crucial to a medical student’s education.

Asymptomatic patients, those with no diagnosed medical conditions or symptoms, provide students a baseline for learning how to perform physical examinations of the body’s different systems (ex. abdominal and neurological).

Symptomatic patients, those with medical conditions and their associated symptoms, allow students to learn how a medical or genetic condition affects the sights, sounds, and findings related to body function. Symptomatic volunteers may also be interviewed about their medical history, daily routine, and the impact of their medical conditions on their lives.

What will the physical examinations be like?

The majority of sessions require students to practice non-invasive physical exams, including abdominal (GI), coordination and gait, reflexes, shoulder movement, respiratory, and more.

Volunteers should be prepared to change into a hospital gown so that areas of the body may be more easily examined. For comfort, VPs are encouraged to wear shorts and a sports bra under their medical gowns.

What if I become uncomfortable?

Please let us know immediately. Your well-being and privacy is a top priority. IMP faculty and students are bound by the Canadian Medical Association Code of Ethics, so all participant information is kept in the strictest of confidence.

Will I be a research subject?

No. We do not involve our VPs in research activities at this time.

Do VP sessions involve diagnosis or treatment?

These sessions serve as a learning tool for students. They are not a substitute for physician care, advice, or treatment. Our students are in the early stages of their learning, and are therefore unable to perform or provide this care.

What about transportation or parking?

Most sessions take place at Royal Jubilee Hospital, with occasional sessions at Victoria General Hospital or the Medical Sciences Building at the University of Victoria.

There is no allocated parking for volunteers at any of these sites, though we help to cover the costs of transportation and parking.